Linking weather patterns to regional extreme precipitation for highlighting potential flood events in medium- to long-range forecasts

Doug Richardson, Robert Neal*, Rutger Dankers, Ken Mylne, Robert Cowling, Holly Clements, Jonathan Millard

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Medium- to long-range precipitation forecasts are a crucial component in mitigating the impacts of fluvial flood events. Although precipitation is difficult to predict at these lead times, the forecast skill of atmospheric circulation tends to be greater. The study explores using weather patterns (WPs) as a preliminary step in producing forecasts of upper-tail precipitation threshold exceedance probabilities for the UK. The WPs are predefined, discrete states representing daily mean sea-level pressure (MSLP) over a European–North Atlantic domain. The WPs most likely to be associated with flooding are highlighted by calculating upper-tail exceedance probabilities derived from the conditional distributions of regional precipitation given each WP. WPs associated with higher probabilities of extreme precipitation are shown to have occurred during two well-known flood events: the 2014 Somerset Levels floods in southwest England; and Storm Desmond over the northern UK in December 2015. To illustrate the potential of this WP-based prediction framework, a forecast guidance tool called Fluvial Decider is introduced. It is intended for use by hydro-meteorologists in the England and Wales Flood Forecasting Centre (FFC). Forecasts of the MSLP from ensemble prediction systems (EPSs) are assigned to the closest-matching WP, providing daily probabilistic forecasts of WPs out to the chosen lead time. Combining these probabilities with observed precipitation threshold exceedance probabilities provides a parsimonious tool for highlighting potential periods with increased risk of flooding. Model forecasts using the European Centre for Medium-range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) EPS highlighted both flood events as being at a higher than average risk of heavy extreme precipitation at lead times of over five days.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere1931
JournalMeteorological Applications
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 21 Jul 2020


  • circulation patterns
  • decision support
  • ensemble forecasts
  • extreme precipitation
  • extremes
  • floods
  • forecasting
  • hazards
  • medium range
  • precipitation
  • precipitation forecast
  • UK floods
  • weather patterns
  • weather types

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